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In a marathon, runners battle not just physical fatigue, but also a type of mental madness and loneliness. In that regard, they know what it's like to be a pastor.

In the midst of a marathon, some runners who have trained for months to finish the 26.2 miles will wonder why they started the race, or what prompted them to take up running in the first place. Stabbing pains in the legs threaten completion of the race. Taking water is a decision of immense proportions: too little means dehydration, too much means cramps. Too weary or isolated to talk with fellow runners, they fluctuate between despair and the euphoria of the runner's high. They keep going because there are few things in life that compare to the satisfaction of finishing a marathon.

That sounds familiar to pastors. They know the loneliness of long-distance ministry: the discouragement, the doubts, the moral and spiritual battles that rage in the mind. Of course, they know the minister's high, as well, when they hear, from time ...

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